The Real Revelation in Biblical Prophecy: DANIEL 10-11

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DANIEL 10 – 11:35

The “magic” of Christmas with twinkling lights and quiet nights, carols that arouse an almost melancholy wanting within our hearts, while at the same time stirring a joyful anticipation of what this season, what this year may hold.

The “magic” of Christmas is but a glimpse of what’s in store for the believer.

We long to be with God, to join him in the incorruptible, to leave behind the pain and sorrow that lurks around every bend.

We long for his return, for our transformation, for the perfection that calls to the very depths of our souls.

We long to see Jesus.  This is the real revelation of prophecy.

The last three chapters of Daniel are complex and challenging and charged. There’s an intense energy surrounds the reality of a God who is always near, a God who will one day appear, and a God who will one day make everything right. The deep longing in my soul will one day be satisfied in full. In the next two lessons we will cover Daniel’s last recorded vision.

BROKEN AT THE FEET OF GOD  

Our text today in chapter 10 begins with a broken hearted man. Haven’t we all hit that point at least once, probably more, where we beg Jesus to come for us? We want to call it quits and go home. Confused and weary and broken, we search for understanding to make sense of it all. We know this feeling. Maybe we feel it right now. With the news of senseless shootings and murder this week, I’m not far off. This is where we find Daniel.

The text doesn’t tell us exactly why he’s so broken, but he writes that he’s been mourning for three weeks. In his anguish he has abstained from rich food and drink, and from the creature comforts that were afforded him, to fall at the feet of God in prayer and petition.

Then, beginning in verse four, an almost avalanche of revelation comes pouring out when Daniel is visited by a heavenly being who reveals a detailed vision. There’s quite a bit packed into the final vision, but I’d like to pull on three themes which are consistent with virtually every other chapter in Daniel: God’s swift response in difficult circumstances, the reality of spiritual warfare that surrounds, and the prophecy of full restoration.

DANIEL’S RESPONSE

Daniel was deeply troubled, but because he doesn’t specify the reason, we are left to only guess, and his response to his trouble is significant. We know that two years earlier a group of exiles returned to Jerusalem to begin the work of rebuilding the Temple. (Ezra 1:1) Daniel did not return with them, in all likelihood because his advanced age, but we don’t know for sure. Could remaining in Babylon have troubled him?

We know that the building of the Temple stopped because of external as well as internal opposition. (Ezra 4:24) Israel’s neighbors had no desire to see the rebirth of a strong Israel and their Temple was indeed connected to their strength, so they caused trouble endlessly. The footprint of the new Temple was much smaller than that of Solomon’s and caused friction within the rank and file, because the older generation remembered the way it was. Rebuilding stopped for as much as 20 years until the prophets Haggai and Zechariah spoke boldly to Zerubabbel, the governor. Could Daniel have received word of this conflict over the Temple and been brought to tears?

Based on the vision Daniel received, it’s probable that his petitions were related to his understanding of God’s plan for Israel.

Now I am here to explain what will happen to your people in the future, for this vision concerns a time yet to come. (Daniel 10:14 NLT)

He was deeply saddened for sure and probably confused. His response? Go to the Lord in prayer. In fact, he humbled himself in prayer with fasting.

It’s interesting that we see no evidence of Daniel trying to pull strings on Israel’s behalf, or attempting to control whatever was bothering him. It’s entirely possible he still held a reasonable amount of governmental influence, and he could have sought the resources to resolve whatever issue plagued him, but he didn’t. It’s convicting really, because this isn’t usually my first response when I’m troubled, especially if I have resources and influence at my disposal. Daniel’s response is incredibly important.

GOD’S RESPONSE

In both chapter 9 and 10 we see that God swiftly responds to Daniel’s prayers as soon as he begins praying.

Since the first day you began to pray for understanding and to humble yourself before your God, your request has been heard in heaven. I have come in answer to your prayer. (Daniel 10:12b NLT)

Daniel said the heavenly being looked like a man, and described him as dressed in linen, with a belt of pure gold, a body like a gem, a face flashing like lightning, eyes flaming like torches, arms like polished bronze, and a roaring voice. This description of Daniel’s is strikingly similar to John’s description of someone like the Son of Man in Revelation:

And standing in the middle of the lampstands was someone like the Son of Man. He was wearing a long robe with a gold sash across his chest. His head and his hair were white like wool, as white as snow. And his eyes were like flames of fire. His feet were like polished bronze refined in a furnace, and his voice thundered like mighty ocean waves. (Rev 1:13-15 NLT)

Could Daniel have seen a pre-incarnate manifestation of God the Son? It certainly isn’t out of the question. So it’s interesting that this man follows his response in verse 12 with this:

But for twenty-one days the spirit prince of the kingdom of Persia blocked my way. Then Michael, one of the archangels, came to help me, and I left him there with the spirit prince of the kingdom of Persia. (Daniel 10:13 NLT)

Puzzling, isn’t it? Does God really need help from the angels? Don’t they get their power from God? Can we assume that God was then bested by evil for 21 days? To understand the situation better it’s important to compare God’s relationship to all other beings, including the evil spirits. He is sovereign over all. ALL.

For those of you who saw the Superman movie way back when, you may recall the scene where Lex Luthor wields powerful Kryptonite to disable Superman’s powers. By exploiting this weakness, Lex Luthor became his evil, equal counterpart.

This is NOT the relationship between Satan and God. Satan is NOT God’s evil, equal counterpart. We can be sure this heavenly messenger was not delayed because he was overpowered or exploited for 21 days. The delay was allowed by God.

Daniel had mourned and fasted for three weeks when this messenger arrived; the exact same amount of time the messenger was blocked. It could have appeared to Daniel that his prayers were going unanswered, when in reality God responded the very same day. I believe there is a correlation between the period of mourning and the spiritual battle, but as to the exact nature of the correlation, I would be purely speculating.

When I think on my own life however, typically I am more receptive to God’s word as time extends from an upsetting event. In the emotion of the moment, God’s voice is often deadened, and I’m not receptive. That’s the spiritual battle that is waging all around us. Satan wants nothing more than to block our connection to God. I’m not saying this was Daniel’s battle, but it could have been.

The ground that our enemy gains in our lives is ground that we allow. And we have all authority in Christ to reclaim that ground. Something to consider when we find ourselves asking why our prayers seem to go unanswered. This is why it’s so important to see that Daniel steadfastly turned to God in prayer for those three weeks, as opposed to any other tactic. Prayer is the single-most effective strategy we have to battle the spirits that mean to destroy and discourage.

THE VISION

The messenger then reveals a detailed prophecy of the coming kings affecting the land of Israel. It almost resembles a tennis match as the king of the North and the king of the South go back and forth over multiple generations attacking each other. The messenger clearly states at the beginning of the vision that the Persian government will fall to the kingdom of Greece. This is a reiteration of the claim in the visions from chapter seven and eight, that the ruler of Greece will fall at the height of his power and the kingdom will be divided into four inferior kingdoms.

From there the vision describes what most scholars believe to be the Seleucid kingdom which fought the Ptolemaic kingdom over the course of a couple hundred years. The Torah Class website has an interesting, point-by-point historical account of how each prophetic clue corresponds to the historical event. Please note that no one can say for sure how God intended or intends to fulfill his prophecies with complete accuracy, so continue to humbly seek God’s guidance here.

At some point in chapter 11 of Daniel, this vision transitions from what has already been fulfilled in history to what yet remains for our future. Many scholars believe that Antiochus IV Epiphanes, who rose up from the Seleucid kingdom, fulfilled the description of the king in Daniel 11:21, and that the king described beginning in Daniel 11:36 is the Antichrist that is still yet to come. I’ll talk more about the remainder of the vision in the lesson next week.

WHAT CAN WE EXPECT FROM GOD?

So often when we come to scripture like this, we approach it in terms of trying to determine how these things will play out, like God gave us these prophecies so that we could and should figure it out, then chart our course accordingly. Maybe we can plan our 401K investments better, however this approach stands in stark contradiction to the character of God, who once spoke to my heart when I was desperately searching his plans for my future,

I don’t give you all the details of the future so that you won’t miss being with me now.

God is the revealer of all mysteries and the donor of all wisdom. When searching and studying scripture as complicated and confusing as the last three chapters of Daniel, we should fall at the feet of our Lord for understanding. When Daniel was hurting and confused, he turned to God, and the prophetic vision was but one aspect of God’s response to Daniel’s petition. What can we expect from our God when we fall at his feet?

Expect him to address your fears

The men who were with Daniel were terrified and ran away and left him alone. Daniel’s strength left him, he grew deathly pale, and finally fainted. Fear is a legitimate feeling and one that cannot be completely eliminated, but it is also an irrational tool used by a conniving enemy to cloud our judgment and block our connection to God.

God knows this, and he wants to reassure us that we do not need to be afraid. Twice he told Daniel not to be afraid. (Daniel 10:12,19) Expect him to address the voice of fear with his voice of love.

Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear. (1 John 4:18 NLT)

Expect him to affirm his love

God is love, and every other character quality ascribed to God is congruent with and pours forth from love. Twice Daniel is affirmed in love.

Daniel, you are very precious to God…(Daniel 10:11 NLT)

Expect to hear those words spoken to your heart on a regular basis. I pray you hear them today.

Expect him to provide strength and encouragement

When thoughts of giving up, feeling too weak to continue, and considerations of an easier, less-formidable path present themselves, expect God to lift you up and have you stand. Expect him to tell you to be strong and to trust him.

This man in the vision touched Daniel three times. First he touched him and lifted him up, then he touched his lips so that he could speak, and he touched Daniel again so he could feel his strength returning. (Daniel 10:10,16,18)

‘Don’t be afraid,’ he said, ‘for you are very precious to God. Peace! Be encouraged! Be strong!’

As he spoke these words to me, I suddenly felt stronger and said to him, ‘Please speak to me, my lord, for you have strengthened me.’ (Daniel 10:19 NLT)

Expect him to reveal truth

After your fears have subsided, his love affirmed, and your strength begins to return, expect a word of truth. When God reveals himself and any aspect of truth, it will be for the purpose of growth. Truth opens the door for greater intimacy with God, which will ultimately brighten his light within you so that the world might also know him. Truth and its effects are multi-faceted and far-reaching, and know that when you ask for understanding, God wishes to bestow it.

Since the first day you began to pray for understanding and to humble yourself before your God, your request has been heard in heaven. I have come in answer to your prayer. (Daniel 10:12b NLT)

WE LONG TO BE WITH GOD

God’s initiative with Daniel in chapter 10, and also with us, is so that we will draw close to him in all things. In his letter to the Romans, Paul talks about this deep craving we have for the promise of a new creation.

And we believers also groan, even though we have the Holy Spirit within us as a foretaste of future glory, for we long for our bodies to be released from sin and suffering. We, too, wait with eager hope for the day when God will give us our full rights as his adopted children, including the new bodies he has promised us. (Romans 8:23 NLT)

Prophecy stirs within me “groans,” and like the anticipation that comes with Christmas, I anxiously anticipate the coming of my Savior. This is the real revelation of prophecy. It reveals my longing for Jesus himself.  Prophecy should lead us into righteous and effective prayer for understanding. It should lead each of us to seek his presence in the present, rather than leave us obsessed with an ambiguous future. It should lead us to experience a foretaste of that future glory through the Holy Spirit today.

Trigger A Command From Heaven: DANIEL 9

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“We simply don’t have the luxury of playing nice with prayer. Not if we want things to change. Not if we want to be free – from whatever’s keeping us held down and held back.” (Shirer, Priscilla. Fervent. p 3)

How many of us can say with confidence that we know, understand, AND practice fervent prayer?  I’ve learned  a lot about prayer in recent years. I understand it because I’ve experienced deep, committed prayer with wise and dedicated women who have crossed my path. I’ve seen the results first-hand.  But even now I still struggle to maintain a consistent practice of it.

I know…really know…the power of prayer and its ability to usher in God’s powerful presence, so why in the world would I let it drop? Satan. I don’t like giving his name much airtime, but let’s call a spade a spade. Prayer is the single most effective offensive weapon we have in our arsenal, and he knows it. Divide and conquer. Separate the believer from her power source. Stop her from praying.

DANIEL 9

We find Daniel in chapter nine reading God’s word as spoken to Jeremiah, meditating on it, when the Spirit of conviction and revelation comes upon him and drives him to his knees. The revelation: Judah’s captivity in Babylon would last a numbered 70 years, and they were very close to completing that timeline. The conviction: Judah abandoned God, refused to listen to any of the prophets, and deserved every part of their punishment. A man dedicated to prayer already, it’s not surprising that he would pray again. And not just pray, but he fasted with burlap and ashes.

You don’t even get the sense that Daniel has really finished praying, that he’s been going at it all day, when Gabriel shows up at the time of the evening sacrifice. He’s there because a command was given in heaven. Wow. That’s powerful.

Daniel, I have come here to give you insight and understanding. The moment you began praying a command was given. And now I am here to tell you what it was, for you are very precious to God. Listen carefully so that you can understand the meaning of your vision. (Daniel 9:23 NLT)

Gabriel then lays out a timeline of sorts for all the events described in his visions earlier. These 70 weeks, as described in many of the Bible translations and versions, or 70 sets of 7 in others, seems to equate to years. In other words, there will be 70 sets of seven years for the time of rebellion to come to an end. These specifications have been useful for many spirited debates among scholars and theologians throughout the years, but we can be assured arguments between believers are not what God intended here. Seek what God wants you to see.

FERVENT PRAYER

Here’s what I see in this text. I see the bulk of it focused on prayer, and I see Daniel’s prayer as not only a prayer of repentance, but one of restoration. He wants to see Israel return to the Promised Land and be fully restored as a nation. His prayer that day resulted in an immediate command from heaven, releasing a revelation. God revealed many more details of his plan for the Jews. Israel would return, rebuild, and prepare the way for Messiah.

A period of seventy sets of seven has been decreed for your people and your holy city to finish their rebellion, to put an end to their sin, to atone for their guilt, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to confirm the prophetic vision, and to anoint the Most Holy Place. (Daniel 9:24 NLT)

Could Daniel have fully appreciated how expansive God’s plan for redemption really was? Daniel’s prayer claimed the very fiber of God’s heart and will for redemption, and God acted upon it immediately. God’s answer to that prayer went well beyond restoration for Israel and offered redemption for the entire world.

Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think. (Ephesians 3:20 NLT)

When we pray in God’s will, when we boldly claim the Word of God and allow it to penetrate the deep recesses of our heart, heaven responds. Let’s begin to unpack this with a question: What does it really mean to pray in God’s will?

JUST DO IT

First, I believe there is no inherently wrong way to pray. I don’t think God is sitting up in heaven, judging our prayers by how we talk to him, or in what order we present things to him, did we include our thanks and praise before our petitions?  He just wants us to come to him. He wants us to enjoy his presence. Biblical instruction that talks about prayer and thanksgiving are not rules so that we might appease God, but rather guidance to prepare us to be with him.

For all three of my children I began a practice of prayer after every round of discipline and correction when they were little. As they got a little older, I would require each of them to pray it on their own. Of course I could tell when they were insincere just so they could be released from “time out,” but I didn’t mind. My hope was that the discipline of prayer itself would eventually spark sincerity in the future.

If you really don’t believe you’re actually talking to God, or that he even hears you, and your words become rote, insincere, hung in the atmosphere until all that’s left is the spittle from your breath, then start here, because one could argue that even these aren’t worthless and could lead to sincerity in the future. Just do it.

For many of us however, we’ve done the repetitive (and can I be honest? boring) prayers. We’ve saved them for our bedtime routine because they put us to sleep faster than anything else. Right? But I believe we’re ready for a change, to really step into game changing prayers like those of Daniel. We want to understand how to make his realities our realities. We want to move mountains into oceans and trigger commands in heaven.

WHAT IS NOT PRAYING IN GOD’S WILL

It is NOT giving up on the prayer before it’s even uttered…

So there’s this little section of scripture in the Apostle James’ letter that talks about the dangers of self-confidence.

How do you know what your life will be like tomorrow? Your life is like the morning fog- it’s here a little while, then it’s gone. What you ought to say is, “If the Lord wants us to, we will live and do this or that.” (James 4:14-15 NLT)

In this text James is warning about self-confidence and arrogance, not spirit confidence. There is a difference. Praying in God’s will is NOT praying from self, it’s praying in the Spirit. Have we unknowingly written-off our prayer as unanswerable, not going to happen, even before it’s fully left our lips?  Our heart leaves the prayer if we do, and then our heart then leaves God’s presence.  Kind of defeats the purpose of prayer.

Like Eeyore from Winnie the Pooh, “He’s probably not going to answer that one anyway. Probably not in his will.” James would not want us to pray like that, tagging on a hopeless, “if it’s your will, Lord,” to our prayers. He says later in chapter five to pray earnestly, lay hands, and anoint with oil. That’s not a hopeless sounding prayer to me.

The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results. (James 5:16b NLT)

 (Add Righteousness to your prayers!)

It is NOT tagging God’s name to a list of prayers that look like good prayers for God’s will…

There are a lot of great, and lofty, and noble things that we can pray for and pursue. Much of which can be equally selfish if we haven’t received confirmation from God to pursue them. So much of the good things we’d like to see happen may not actually be in our best interest. I have been known to pray against a prayer request, because I sensed what they were asking was not what God had for them at that stage in life.

Much to my surprise, I had to learn this too when none of my dreams, plans, and prayer approvals were working out early on. I learned that God really doesn’t need me working out all the details to my plans and getting his prayer approval. He’s already got those details worked out. His big picture didn’t need my well-planned flow charts after all.

He is not impressed by the strength of a horse; he does not value the power of a man. The Lord values those who fear Him, those who put their hope in His faithful love. (Psalms 147:10-11 HCSB)

(Add fearing Him and hope in his faithful love to your prayers!)

WHAT IS PRAYING IN GOD’S WILL

It IS searching for, and understanding God’s will for your life…

During the first year of his reign, I, Daniel, learned from reading the word of the Lord, as revealed to Jeremiah the prophet, that Jerusalem must lie desolate for seventy years. (Daniel 9:2 NLT)

Daniel was studying the scriptures, deep in God’s word, and dare I say deep in worship. During this time in God’s word, he saw the promise of 70 years of captivity for Israel. Imagine the excitement to understand it was almost over and to claim God’s will.

The vast majority of God’s will and promises will be found in scripture. Meditating on the word of God in an effort to know him will reveal his will, and this is where bold prayers begin!

(Add reading God’s word to your prayers!)

It IS claiming God’s promises and the inherent authority therein for our lives and for others…

Daniel saw the promise and straightaway claims it fervently. He’s certainly not remiss in confessing the sins that brought about their captivity in the first place. And he includes himself.  Much of his prayer reflects it. Neglecting these opportunities to repent, weakens our stance and claims of promise.  Imagine if Daniel prayed for the promise of returning to Jerusalem, but minimized the wrongdoing.  When I see my kids do that, I see the need to extend their punishment.

But we have sinned and done wrong. We have rebelled against you and scorned your commands and regulations. (Daniel 9:5 NLT)

Yet Daniel remains bold.

O our God, hear your servant’s prayer! Listen as I plead. For your own sake, Lord, smile again on your desolate sanctuary. (Daniel 9:15 NLT)

When we find a promise in God’s word, Paul refers to as our sword for battling Satan. (Eph 6:17) It cuts through all the lies he tells to keep us down and feeling defeated. Paul also tells us we’re already seated in the heavenlies (Eph 2:6) and that we are already strong in God’s mighty power (Eph 6:10). It means we can claim the authority of God’s power when praying his word. When we pray his will, God acts.

(Add promises and faithful confession and repentance to your prayers!)

It IS searching for an understanding of God’s bigger picture of redemption …

There are certainly nuances to God’s will that he may or may not make available. Our lack of knowledge shouldn’t resign us to pitiful prayers; we continue to boldly pray with what we know. That’s why we have the Holy Spirit.

And the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. For example, we don’t know what God wants us to pray for. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words. And the Father who knows all hearts knows what the Spirit is saying, for the Sprit pleads for us believers in harmony with God’s own will. (Romans 8:26-27 NLT emphasis added)

When Gabriel came to Daniel to reveal the timeline for Messiah and the final rebellion, that was awesome and I’m thankful for that. Unfortunately, I end up with about 1,000 more questions than if I hadn’t read it in the first place. It’s really only a fragment of the full plan, and a rather confusing one at that.  Understanding how our prayers fit into God’s overall picture is admittedly overwhelming. Knowing this, God typically only reveals snippets of his big picture, because like Jack Nicholson in A Few Good Men, we can’t always handle the truth.

So, like the CIA, God fills us in on a need-to-know basis. But not knowing everything still shouldn’t change our bold prayers. We’ve got big issues in our world. Murder, violence, people fleeing for their lives, terror threatening our way of life all over the world. We need to be bold in our prayers.

Based on the prophecies we read the last two weeks, it seems as though the world could get worse until the time of rebellion if finished. If that’s where we are right now, in a place where it will get worse before it gets better, how do we pray bold prayers in God’s will?  That’s a tough one. Ultimately only we can answer that for ourselves through the Holy Spirit, because he very likely has a unique prayer plan for each of us, as a Body working together.

(ask God to reveal your portion of the Big Picture so that you might effectively pray!)

PRAYERS THAT AREN’T NECESSARILY PROMISES

We’ve said that praying in God’s will means, in part, claiming God’s promises as Daniel did. We’ve also talked at length throughout the course of this study in Daniel, that we aren’t promised physical safety. We aren’t promised an easy life without persecution, in fact Jesus points out that the world will hate us for identifying with Him. Should we not then pray for safety and protection?

Even though these things are likely or maybe even guaranteed, it doesn’t mean we can’t or shouldn’t pray against them. And it doesn’t mean that we aren’t praying in God’s will if we do. They are burdens, like any other, and Jesus wants to carry them. So pray, hand them over, and trust God, and God knows, it just might be his will.

There was a man named Jabez …. He was the one who prayed to the God of Israel, “Oh, that you would bless me and expand my territory! Please be with me in all that I do, and keep me from all trouble and pain!” And God granted him his request. (1 Chronicles 4:9-10 NLT)

Abide in Christ, stand firm in his Word, pray fervently with authority and boldness, trigger commands in Heaven!

SCRIPTURES TO CONSIDER

Prayers boldly focused on the Kingdom.

Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be provided for you. (Matthew 6:33 HCSB)

Prayers for his presence.

Being content with what you have; for He Himself has said, “I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you.” (Hebrews 13:5)

Prayers for shelter and safety, however God may define that for us.

From the end of the earth I will cry to You, when my heart is overwhelmed; Lead me to the rock that is higher than I. For You have been a shelter for me, a strong tower from the enemy. I will abide in Your tabernacle forever; I will trust in the shelter of Your wings. (Psalms 61:2-4 NKJV)

Prayers for firmness and a steady faith.

I am at rest in God alone; my salvation comes from Him. He alone is my rock and my salvation, my stronghold; I will never be shaken. (Psalms 62:1-2 HCSB)

Why Pray and How: ACTS 11:19-12:25

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Acts 11:19-12:25

Praying before meals was a regular part of our practice throughout my childhood.  One Sunday afternoon our family sat down to eat our noon meal, which was probably pot roast from the crock-pot, typical Sunday fare in our home. We prayed and then began to eat. My little brother yelped and whimpered as he took a bite and said, “Daddy, the food is still too hot. You didn’t pray long enough.”

Why do we pray? How do we pray?  Like many things in scripture, prayer is a simple act that is steeped in complexity.  In this passage of Acts we see the story of Peter’s miraculous release from prison.   His release occurs as the Jerusalem believers gathered to pray earnestly for his safety. I’d like to take the time today to dive into the real value of prayer.

THE LORD’S PRAYER

This wouldn’t be a lesson on prayer without a visit to the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew.   In chapter 6 Jesus teaches his followers how to pray. Even though you may have heard a dozen sermons on The Lord’s Prayer, it’s wise to come here first, as a basis of context. Jesus says,

Pray like this: Our Father in Heaven, may your name be kept holy. May your Kingdom come soon. May your will be done on earth, as it is in heaven. Give us today the food we need, and forgive us our sins, as we have forgiven those who sin against us. And don’t let us yield to temptation, but rescue us from the evil one. (Matthew 6:9-13 NLT)

I have to admit, I have a tendency to resist this scripture because I have a natural aversion to rules when it comes to my faith, and I’ve held the bias that a memorized prayer was an empty prayer.  And that’s probably because most of the teachings I’ve heard on The Lord’s Prayer usually end up as a “how to” message on how to construct my prayers. Even if the pastor didn’t intended it, most folks walk away thinking, “Ok. So when I pray this week, I need to start like this, then move into this, and end with this.” They walk away with a formula!

Can you imagine the extensive amount of thought, energy, and emotion required to make a cake without any basic recipe to follow?  Formulas are extremely helpful when trying to recreate your favorite cake or calculate equations or perform heart surgery.  A formula decreases variability and increases quality.  But can you really apply this approach to relationships?  Absolutely not.  No one wants to feel like the variable in someone’s formula.  When you approach God using a formula, you’re essentially taking out the thought, energy and emotion, and all these things are required components to any relationship.  The quickest way to sever a connection to the Holy Spirit is by responding to him with a recipe.  But let’s not throw the baby out with the bath water.  When the disciples asked Jesus how to pray, he gave them the Lord’s Prayer.

BREAKING IT DOWN

I honestly don’t believe Jesus gave us this prayer so that we would necessarily pray these words exactly, nor to give us a recipe for what to include in our prayers; even though the words are great and the structure, worthy of duplication. He was revealing truth about himself and how we relate to him. When we absolutely believe these truths, it will most definitely impact our prayers and bring us into the presence of God. The problem arises when we don’t believe them.

1)May your kingdom come soon. When his disciples heard this, you know they were praying he would establish this kingdom by overthrowing the occupying Roman government. But there’s actually two components to the kingdom, a heavenly kingdom and an earthly one. The earthly kingdom pictured in the books of the prophets and revealed further in Revelation are pictures of what he’s prepared for us in heaven. Scripture promises a time when Jesus will return again to finally address the corruption of sin here on Earth and establish a kingdom. It will be yet one more picture of the splendor in the heavenly realm.  However, when Jesus died on the cross, rose again, and was seated at the right hand of the Father that too was picture of that heavenly kingdom. Because of his blood sacrifice, we are granted access to the power of that kingdom now. When we are praying for the kingdom, we are praying for the completion of all of his promises. We are also praying that we would walk in that kingdom now via the Holy Spirit. It’s like heaven invading earth through our hearts, and that’s exactly what happens when we are plugged into the Holy Spirit. He is our King, and his Kingdom has come into us, when we are abiding in Christ and he abides in us.

2) May your will be done on earth, as it is in heaven. Even here, Jesus is talking about these two economies, or households, heaven and earth. He has a will for heaven and one for earth and his purpose has always been to bring them into perfect union. I think we can all agree that they’re not unified today; there’s too much sin and corruption to think otherwise. His will, here on earth, includes each one of us, and if we submit to that will, our stories will play an eternal role in it’s unfolding. Our prayer should be that, through the power of the Holy Spirit, we would live our lives to accomplish his will. Praying in God’s will is not necessarily a lack of faith, quite the contrary. In fact the more we are in His presence and seek to understand His will, the bolder our prayers become.

3) Give us today the food we need. In some versions, the translation is, “give us this day our daily bread.” Bread is a common theme throughout the course of scripture from the manna given to Israel, to the miracle of the feeding of the 5,000. Jesus wants us to know that HE is our daily bread. He is our manna from heaven. Of all our needs, there is none greater than he. Of course we have needs that need to be met, and he knows exactly what they are.

 …your Father knows exactly what you need even before you ask him! (Matthew 6:8 NLT)

So why even ask? Because it brings us back to him as our resource. Our family discovered toxic mold during the holidays and we were wondering if we would lose our home. I was frantic and you can bet I prayed for resolution. God knew my needs, and he knew the solution. I don’t know if my prayer changed anything in that moment except myself.  In my fear, I could hear his voice say, “I have a solution in place. Trust me.” It brought me back to him. Sometimes we pray for what we need, so that we can hear His steady response. Let me be clear.  There are plenty of scriptural anecdotes telling of prayers that changed the Lord’s mind and altered outcomes.  They certainly can.  It all comes back to God.  He alone is our daily bread.

4) Forgive us our sins. Like so many things, I think this also has a heavenly and an earthly component if you’ll follow me for a minute. If you have already given your heart over to a faith in Jesus, then this prayer for forgiveness is one that has cleansed you from all unrighteousness. Scripture says that faith in Jesus is all you need for forgiveness, to thereby gain eternal life. In the heavenly realm this need only be done once. Because the blood of Christ is absolute, covering all sin (past, present, and future), there is only one forgiveness for salvation. The end. You do NOT need to pray for forgiveness repeatedly.

So why in the world do you think Jesus would include this in a daily prayer? Because I believe it’s a prayer for healing in the earthly realm. We’re not praying this to be saved. We all need to be healed of the sins that we’ve committed. We have not, and we will not live perfect, sinless lives. Continued confession and repentance, reminds us of our forgiveness and allows the Lord to work in our heart daily for healing. It allows us to transfer that burden of guilt to Jesus, and it closes an open door to Satan. I know I’m not alone in being tormented by the decisions of my past and present. I know by experience, that unconfessed sin simmers within me and wreaks havoc in all aspects of my life. I’ve learned that I can heal and receive the power of the Holy Spirit by making this a regular practice in my life.

5) As we have forgiven those who sin against us. This is also a prayer for healing. We need healing from the sins we’ve committed, and we need healing from the sins others have inflicted upon us. Anger can be so destructive and a very effective tool for Satan. Most of us know the concept of not letting the sun go down on our anger recorded by the Apostle Paul in Ephesians. This doesn’t mean that we must literally let go of the anger within 24 hours or less, but it’s establishing the principle of avoiding a grudge. Paul also says, be angry and do not sin, so that indicates there is such a thing as righteous anger. God doesn’t expect us to live up to a standard that he doesn’t hold for himself. Scripture records over and over the anger he has over sin. But righteous anger that brews into unforgiveness will always turn into a grudge, and that’s the open door for which Satan prowls. Knowing this, and praying for his supernatural power to help us forgive, even while the sting of pain still stabs, places us on the right path. Notice this phrase, “as we have forgiven those who sin against us,forgiven is in the past tense, while sin is present tense. Awfully optimistic for most of us, but if we will proactively pray in this direction it will become the past. It’s called praying in his will.

6) And don’t let us yield to temptation, but rescue us from the evil one. I’ve mentioned this evil one twice already. He’s real, and his number one goal is to derail each and every one of us. All the aforementioned parts of the Lord’s Prayer work together to answer this one.

The Lord’s Prayer isn’t necessarily a prayer to guide the structure of our prayers. Jesus put into words the essence of our relationship with him in prayer. It’s an authoritative, powerful relationship, because he is king; it’s a revelatory relationship because he wants to share his will and make himself known to us; it’s a provisionary relationship because of his overwhelming love for us; it’s a healing relationship because he makes us whole; and it’s a protective relationship because he is sovereign over all, even evil.

I find it incredibly interesting that this prayer never actually mentions thanksgiving while scripture is filled with advice toward gratitude. I wondered why. Then it occurred to me, when I really see the dramatic impact of this prayer, and I’m ushered into his presence, how can I not be thankful? He’s brought me into his kingdom, he’s revealed himself to me in astounding ways, he’s given me a purpose that will play into his will on earth AND heaven, he provided for me abundantly, he’s healed me from lifelong hurts, and he is waging battle against my enemy alongside me. I am humbled by and thankful for his grace. This is a prayer for our earthly world filled with eternal implications in the heavenly world, because it keeps our eyes fixed on the things above.

Coming back to Peter’s release from prison in this passage of Acts, we see no detail on what their prayers for Peter looked like exactly except that they were earnest.  These believers were fervent, faithful and filled with the Holy Spirit.  Peter’s release was so miraculous, the believers weren’t about to believe it actually happened. Peter wasn’t even so sure himself for a minute. But when it’s God’s will, there’s no shame in praying for it and claiming it.  Be ready to be blown away.

CHALLENGE

God called me to write, teach and speak two years ago. I have avoided praying for an abundance of opportunities to speak and teach, mainly for my fear of arrogance and my fear of failure. But if God has called me, and revealed his will to me, I NEED to be praying boldly for his will. My challenge to you this week, is to examine your own hearts. What are your prayers expressing? Are you claiming and worshipping Christ through all aspects of your relationship with him? Are you praying in his will that he has revealed to you and through you?

Additional verses on prayer.   Read and see what the Lord shows you in the context of the Lord’s Prayer.

Ephesians 6:18

Colossians 4:2

Matthew 7:7

James 4:2-3

James 5:16

I John 5:14

John 15:7